The longest road trip of the season has finally come to an end and the Los Angeles Lakers have returned to Staples Center to play against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Lakers went 1-7 on their road trip, but the demotion of D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle to the bench and a horrible loss the the worst team in the NBA were the low points of the trip. However, unsuccessful the road trip may have been, there still were a few positive things that took place.
D’Angelo Russell’s demotion to the bench seemed to light a fire under him, and when he saw the floor, he looked like the player the Lakers were hoping he would become when they drafted him. In the wake of their worse lost of the season to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Lakers defeated a tough Washington Wizards team. The Milwaukee Bucks are in town tonight, and they are riding the momentum of giving the previously undefeated Golden State Warriors their first loss of the season.
One of the most coveted free agents this offseason not named LaMarcus Aldridge was five-year veteran Greg Monroe. The Lakers tried to acquire Monroe, but he decided to take his talents to Milwaukee. Monroe is a 6’11” big man who clogs the paint and dares anyone to challenge him at the rim. He is averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds this season and is a force to be reckoned with under the basket.
The Bucks have a one of a kind player in Giannis “The Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo starting next to Monroe. Antetokounmpo stands at 6’11 and starts at power forward, but he does a lot of his damage from the perimeter. He is an athletic slasher and he can guard any position on the floor. The 21-year-old is averaging 16 points and seven rebounds in his second season in the NBA.
Starting at shooting guard for the Bucks is former USC Trojan, O.J. Mayo. Mayo is a dynamic two-guard who has a knack for scoring in a variety of ways. Mayo is a streaky shooter, but when his shot is falling, the Lakers better pay attention to him. Mayo is averaging a career-low 10 points per game this season, but he can still have a hot shooting night on occasion.
Jerryd Bayless is the usually the starting point guard for the Bucks, but due to injury, the young and talented Michael Carter-Williams will likely get the start. Carter-Williams turned some heads in his rookie season with the 76ers with big scoring performances early in the season. Since then, his efficiency tapered off, but Carter-Williams still shows plenty of promise to become an elite guard in the NBA.
Keys to Victory:
Quick Start: There have been countless games where the Lakers got down big early and then unsuccessfully attempted to play catch up. It is time for this team to come out with aggression and take control of the tempo early. If the Lakers can jump out to a quick start against the Bucks, they will set the tone of the game and earn their fourth victory of the season.
The Kobe and Russell Show: In recent games, D’Angelo Russell has looked like a completely different player. Prior to this boost in confidence, Russell talked about how there is ball movement without Kobe Bryant. Since that interview, Russell has looked great and Kobe has become a playmaker and a more efficient scorer. The two have played really well off of each other in recent games and they should continue to build chemistry on the court.
Enjoy the Process: The Lakers have been in search of an identity all season and it finally appears that they are developing a sense of who they are going to be. They are not going to be great just yet, but once they figure out who they are, the young Lakers core will be a tough team to matchup with in the future. With that being said, the Bucks are not a very talented team either, so this is a winnable game for Los Angeles. The Lakers should enjoy the process of finding their identity and have fun playing good basketball and the wins will start coming.
Los Angeles Lakers (3-21) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (10-15)
7:30 P.M. PST, December 14, 2015
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English)/ 1330 (Spanish)
Bucks Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Michael Carter-Williams
SG: O.J. Mayo
SF: Khris Middleton
PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo
C: Greg Monroe
Key Reserves: PG: Grievis Vasquez, C: Miles Plumlee, PF: John Henson
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Lou Williams
SF: Kobe Bryant
PF: Larry Nance Jr.
C: Roy Hibbert
Key Reserves: PF: Julius Randle, SF: Nick Young, PG: D’Angelo Russell